Don’t Be a Cretin (and 7 More Tips for a Better Web Presence)

It's not really a secret that the largely anonymous nature of the Internet brings out the very worst in some people. This isn't just true of chat rooms, social media, and multiplayer networks, though – the "I can get away with pretty well anything" frame of mind even affects social personalities and business marketers.

In fact, I sometimes come across individuals working on the grey edges of the ethical spectrum. Not only are they hurting themselves and their clients, but they are also setting some really poor examples for the rest of the industry.

With that in mind, I'd like to share a few things I hope to come across a lot less in the future. Some fall firmly into the "cretin" territory; the rest are just products of being uninformed, out of touch, or not willing to invest the proper amount of time and energy into doing things a better way.

Thus, here are seven things we all need to stop doing collectively as a group:

1. Stealing, scraping, and altering content.

This is the lowest of the low, and worse, it won't help you build credibility or search engine visibility. If you have something on your site that doesn't belong to you or fit your current business model, now is the perfect time to get rid of it and move forward.

2. Taking images without paying for them or giving credit.

Coming upon some of my own custom images (slightly altered and without attribution) inspired the "cretin" idea. Because images are a bit harder to track than text, this is a type of theft that is fairly common. Legalities aside, "borrowing" images from other companies is a terrible idea from both an ethical point of view and practical marketing standpoint.

3. Offering incorrect or misleading facts and statistics.

Not long ago, I caught someone who wanted to work with me embellishing the results of their social media efforts. I can understand this person wanted to impress me and others, but these kinds of lies are almost always discovered eventually, and just make you end up looking worse than if you had told the truth.

4. Ignoring basic colour theory.

Okay, so this one won’t send you to that dark and overheated place, but I have to ask, why is it that so many business websites don't adhere to basic colour theory, with dominant, submissive, and highlight colours to direct the eye? A lot of would-be designers either don't know or don't care how colour schemes are supposed to go together. Sloppiness is never good for business, or for viewers. Your credibility and your message are at stake.

5. Failing to design sales pathways for websites.

Without an established marketing pathway or sales funnel in place, your content is really just a fishing line in the virtual water. There should be an easy way for potential customers to find the site, react to the content, and take the next logical step. That's the key to building profitable and repeatable campaigns.

6. Drawing meaningless impressions with low quality content.

I've railed about this a wee bit recently so will avoid going on at length here. However, if you're posting meaningless content that you're hoping will go "viral," then you're not just missing the point of generating content, but also wasting your own time with trivialities that can hamper your lead generation efforts.

7. Influencer-itis.

So you’ve got 5,000 or maybe even 500,000 followers. Wow, that’s impressive. It really is. Do you grasp the impact your posts will have on your followers? That’s plenty of power in your hands. Best to use it wisely.

All of these in one way or another come down to the idea of looking for shortcuts when we should be doing the right thing: communicating in a helpful and ethical manner.

If you think about it, the Internet is a giant community, and any community can be improved with just a bit of attention to details on a regular basis. Why don't we learn to help ourselves and our clients at the same time by refusing to act like we don't know any better even when we obviously do?